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Trump's impeachment lesson: Democrats are 'crooked'

President Donald Trump said the lesson he learned from his impeachment trial is that "Democrats are crooked" and "vicious."

Posted: Feb 13, 2020 3:30 AM
Updated: Feb 13, 2020 3:30 AM

If some Republican senators emerged from President Donald Trump's impeachment acquittal optimistic he'd learned important lessons of presidential behavior, he was happy on Wednesday to offer a different takeaway.

"The Democrats are crooked," he said when questioned in the Oval Office about what he learned from the impeachment ordeal, which concluded one week ago. "They got a lot of crooked things going. That they're vicious. That they shouldn't have brought impeachment."

It was a conclusive answer to a question that seemed less and less of a question in the days since Trump's impeachment trial gaveled out with a "not guilty" verdict.

Since then, the President has waged a brazen tour of retribution toward officials he sees as enemies. He's cast aside conventions separating politics from the rule of law. And he's basking in the uncertainty of the Democratic race to replace him.

Even as some of his aides scramble to explain away his behavior as routine, Trump himself is taking no pains to disguise his intentions. After administration officials downplayed the decision to ease sentencing recommendations for onetime campaign associate Roger Stone as standard procedure, Trump made clear the intervention was more narrow.

"I want to thank the Justice Department for seeing this horrible thing," he said in the Oval Office as his Ecuadorian counterpart looked on. "They saw the horribleness of a nine year sentence for doing nothing."

Stone's crimes, in the eyes of the federal jury who convicted him of tampering with a witness and lying to Congress, were not nothing. But for Trump, the facts of the case seemed ancillary to the effect the episode had on Stone and his family.

"We have killers, we have murderers all over the place, nothing happens," he said. "And then they put a man in jail and destroy his life, his family, his wife, his children. Nine years in jail -- it's a disgrace."

Trump declined to say whether he was considering a pardon for Stone -- "I don't want to say that yet"-- but the message was clear: the once-typical wall between White House political motives and Justice Department decision-making has fallen.

Trump himself has long erased the traditional line that's existed between a president's official duties and his political ones. Events billed as "official" engagements often turn to attacks of Democratic rivals. On Wednesday, a stack of red "Keep America Great" hats produced by Trump's campaign sat within arm's reach on a side table in the Oval Office.

But the longstanding practice of avoiding interference in politically charged Justice Department investigations had at least been applied in theory -- if not practice. Now, Trump is openly flaunting his willingness to intervene.

Earlier in the day, Trump congratulated Attorney General Bill Barr in a tweet for "taking charge" of the Stone case and railed against what he described as the "Mueller Scam."

And while Trump continued to insist on Wednesday that he hadn't spoken directly to Barr or other Justice Department officials about the situation, he has said he would have the "absolute right" to do it if he wanted.

It's not exactly what moderate Republican senators such as Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins pictured when they voted against convicting Trump on impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Their hope then was that Trump, stained by impeachment and chastened by accusations he misused his presidential authority, would operate in more traditional fashion going forward.

Instead, the opposite has seemed to occur. Trump has overseen the dismissal of two key witnesses from the impeachment trial, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, and Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU. He's itching to fire other officials he deems disloyal, and abruptly withdrew a Treasury Department nomination for Jessie Liu, the former US attorney who headed the office that oversaw Stone's prosecution.

And after the Justice Department disavowed the government's sentencing recommendations for Stone, all four federal prosecutors working on the case resigned.

"I don't like this chain of events," Collins said on Wednesday. "The President weighs in, all of a sudden, Justice comes back and says, 'Change the deal.' I think most people in America would look at that and say, 'Hmm, that just doesn't look right.' And I think they're right."

Murkowski, asked whether Trump had taken any lessons from the impeachment saga, said that "there haven't been any strong indicators this week that he has."

Trump paid little mind to those sentiments as he took questions, sometimes angrily, in the Oval Office on Wednesday, where he was ostensibly meeting with President Lenín Moreno of Ecuador. It's the first time in nearly 20 years a president of Ecuador has visited the White House.

As Moreno looked on from his wheelchair (he was wounded during a 1998 robbery attempt and has used a wheelchair since), Trump cast himself as the victim of politically motivated takedown attempts and seemed intent on finding retribution.

"Where is (James) Comey? What's happening to (Andrew) McCabe? What's happening to Lisa and Peter Strzok, what's happening with them? It was a whole setup," Trump said, listing off the now-familiar names he blames for the investigations that have plagued his presidency.

Asked if he was concerned that federal prosecutors were resigning or withdrawing from cases on his watch, Trump said: "I'm not concerned about anything. They ought to go back to school and learn."

He seemed more pleased with a question from an Ecuadorean reporter, who praised US economic growth before asking about signs of weakness in Latin American economies.

"I love that question," Trump said, "I wish we had people like that here."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 304023

Reported Deaths: 3580
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin641421113
Ramsey27059502
Anoka21526225
Dakota21268190
Washington13529113
Stearns13524108
St. Louis8433108
Scott820154
Wright746139
Olmsted653534
Sherburne570941
Clay483956
Carver455913
Blue Earth405214
Rice403136
Kandiyohi396821
Crow Wing353431
Nobles304929
Chisago304410
Otter Tail300522
Benton293348
Winona273730
Mower257423
Douglas250735
Polk248923
Morrison228029
Lyon213411
Beltrami211917
McLeod205011
Becker199815
Goodhue196728
Steele19137
Itasca185523
Isanti184917
Todd178413
Carlton177715
Nicollet158725
Freeborn15125
Mille Lacs149931
Le Sueur144911
Cass138610
Waseca137811
Brown136415
Pine13138
Meeker12398
Roseau11454
Hubbard111924
Martin111220
Wabasha10301
Redwood91619
Chippewa8527
Dodge8380
Cottonwood8333
Watonwan8334
Renville83124
Wadena7736
Sibley7724
Rock7569
Aitkin75529
Pipestone71018
Houston6854
Fillmore6770
Yellow Medicine63311
Pennington6277
Kanabec59613
Murray5783
Swift5758
Faribault5422
Pope5281
Stevens5063
Clearwater5058
Jackson4841
Marshall4758
Lake4066
Koochiching3855
Wilkin3715
Unassigned36759
Lac qui Parle3613
Lincoln3511
Norman3417
Big Stone3072
Mahnomen2904
Grant2726
Kittson2138
Red Lake2053
Traverse1461
Lake of the Woods951
Cook660

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 225897

Reported Deaths: 2345
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33451334
Linn14206164
Scott1116385
Black Hawk10849134
Woodbury10323124
Johnson948636
Dubuque918291
Story677621
Dallas633657
Pottawattamie624570
Sioux369125
Webster357833
Cerro Gordo351544
Marshall347846
Clinton327540
Buena Vista304114
Des Moines287920
Muscatine286468
Warren279611
Plymouth274242
Wapello255071
Jones229813
Jasper217443
Marion204320
Lee202217
Carroll197322
Bremer194212
Henry18227
Crawford174316
Benton169519
Tama153840
Jackson144313
Delaware143221
Washington140214
Dickinson138210
Boone136311
Mahaska126727
Wright12336
Clay11714
Buchanan116410
Hardin115010
Page11294
Clayton11105
Hamilton11059
Cedar107413
Harrison106729
Calhoun10617
Kossuth10566
Floyd104116
Mills10407
Fayette103310
Lyon10268
Butler10116
Poweshiek98913
Winneshiek96212
Iowa94612
Winnebago91723
Hancock8607
Louisa85816
Sac8578
Grundy85611
Chickasaw8494
Cherokee8374
Cass80823
Allamakee79911
Mitchell7884
Appanoose78710
Humboldt7695
Union7676
Shelby76211
Emmet76024
Guthrie75215
Franklin73521
Jefferson7112
Madison6804
Unassigned6620
Palo Alto6514
Keokuk5967
Pocahontas5574
Howard5529
Greene5220
Osceola5211
Ida48713
Clarke4824
Taylor4643
Montgomery46211
Davis4619
Monroe44312
Adair4408
Monona4332
Fremont3573
Van Buren3555
Worth3550
Lucas3236
Decatur3160
Wayne2987
Audubon2952
Ringgold2112
Adams1692
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